The New Blue Collar

The New Blue Collar

We see it often from young people in small towns across America; skid marks on the road out of town in search of a better, brighter future.  
 
Middle and high school students don’t want the same factory or manufacturing job their parents and grandparents had before them. Moms and Dads are all too eager to see their children off to a four-year college to secure what they see as the golden ticket to success—Bachelor’s Degree. Who can blame them; it’s what we’ve always done. 
 

But we don’t need to!

MEET the New Blue Collar!


 
In a series covering domestic employment issues, USA Today confirms what we have known here in McDowell for years; today's manufacturing has undergone an upgrade and established The New Blue Collar!

“Technology has given many a makeover, leaving them worlds away from their assembly-line predecessors and challenging the notion that good blue-collar jobs are dead and that the only path to a good career is a four-year degree,” the article states.
 
An example cited in the piece is 21-year-old Joseph Poole who earns $100,000 a year with a two-year degree from his local community college. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medium skilled jobs requiring some secondary education—but not as much as a four-year degree—are expected to make up the largest share of new jobs. Although not every job pays six figures, the numbers show a surge in skilled manufacturing jobs across the country with pay starting at $13 an hour or more. The video shows several examples of this in McDowell County. 
 
The new Blue Collar jobs feature sophisticated technology that requires skills. Skills that can easily be acquired in two years at McDowell Technical Community College. Think robotics, programming and more. 
 
According to Jerry Broome who recently retired from the Region C Workforce Development Board, McDowell County manufacturing companies use cutting-edge technologies and offer positions with career-worthy pay and advancement opportunities. Hiring executives say that part of the problem is a lack of knowledge about these opportunities as well as replacing the negative stereotype of manufacturing jobs.
 
“Parents drive by our local manufacturing facilities such as WestRock, Coats Specialty, Baldor, and Baxter and have no idea of what goes on inside,” says Broome. “If they don’t know the opportunities that exist here for their children, we’ll continue to lose our talent.”  
 
The video, Made in McDowell, was created jointly by the Region C Workforce Development Board and the Workforce Pipeline Committee to showcase the innovative technologies used by local companies in our own county and taught at McDowell Tech. It was our county commissioners’ visionary actions and support from the community that facilitated the opening of the Universal Manufacturing Center at McDowell Tech. The Center provides a state-of-the-art educational environment allowing students real-time, hands-on training and education with the newest technologies. 
 
The producers of the video hope to engage young middle-schoolers, high-schoolers, as well as parents to educate them about local employment and career opportunities and dispel the outdated view of dark and dingy manufacturing work, says Broome. The video, along with programs such as LINC (Leadership, Involvement, Networking, Community), and CARP (Career Awareness Readiness Program aimed at a middle school audience) are just some of the examples that collaboration among business leaders, the Chamber, local government, and our schools are shaping a brighter future for McDowell. 

For more information about the video or the programs mentioned here contact the Chamber at mountains@mcdowellchamber.com or call 828.652.4240.
 

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